Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Motivating Action on Climate Change: Appeals to Self Interest Are Key

I am catching up on reading, and wanted to point to this piece titled Why the Climate Change Wolf Is So Hard to Kill Off.

The author discusses the difficulty in motivating people and businesses (and politicians!) to take action to stop a calamity like climate change, which is slow to unfold and difficult for many people to plainly "see" and thus believe. He notes that, "The point of the story of the boy who cried wolf is that, finally, a wolf did appear."

This, the author adds, might explain our politicians' difficulty in taking decisive action on climate change:

(Climate Change) is far away and coming slowly. “If the worst comes to the worst,” mutter the rich to themselves, “we can always let our children cope.”

How might this complacency be replaced by action, the author asks?

"The answer", he notes, "is that we must appeal at least as much to people’s self-interest as to their morality. Two things are needed, he says.

The first is convincing evidence that the true risks are larger than many now suppose. Conceivable feedback effects might, for example, generate temperature increases of 20°C. That would be the end of the world as we know it. I cannot imagine a rational person who would not seek to eliminate even the possibility of such outcomes. But if we are to do that, we must also act very soon.

The second requirement is to demonstrate that it is possible for us to thrive with low-carbon emissions. People in the northern hemisphere are not going to choose to be cold now, in order to prevent the world from becoming far too hot in future. China and India are not going to forgo development, either. These are realities that cannot be ignored.

Advocates of change will have to persuade people that living in a low-carbon economy does not mean giving up everything they enjoy. People will not wear hair shirts, whatever they may pretend.

These points underlie the whole purpose of this blog, and it's good to see them expressed so explicitly every now and then. As obvious as they may seem to some of us sustainability mavens, we clearly have a long way to go if we are convince our leaders to enact changes needed to stem the rising disaster that is global warming.

The good news, again, is that the types of appeals to self interest that the author calls for are quite genuine. As this blog's readers see evidence of every day, solutions to climate change are already spurring the creation of new jobs and whole sectors of an emerging sustainable economy. If this green trend continues, and is not devoured by massive green washing causing a loss of public trust, it will - among many, many benefits - make the air that we breathe cleaner and healthier, will help us secure our energy and economic future (including by helping us save ourselves from the dangers posed by Peak Oil), and thus will help us achieve an overall better quality of life.

PS - Note from Bali. It appears that fewer and fewer of our leaders need to be convinced to take action to stop global warming. Who are the worst climate sinners? Quite the couple, if you will... Hopefully this will change considerably as of about January 20, 2009.

No comments:

Post a Comment